The MHCRJ was established in 1934 by the decree no. 4989, under the administration of Mayor Pedro Ernesto (1931-1936).
Its first headquarters was the City Hall Palace at Praça da Republica. In 1941 it was transferred to Parque da Cidade (City Park), but two years later it was moved again; this time to a school at Cardeal Arcoverde Square in Copacabana, as the City Park manor needed to go through works. The museum only returned to its original palace in 1948 under the administration of Mayor Angelo Mendes de Moraes (1947-1951).
Through an agreement with the State Government, in 1994 the City Hall of Rio de Janeiro began to manage the museum. A year later, restoration works began, which included restoration of the roof, the metal structures, the balconies, and floor. An outbuilding with elevator was constructed and part of the original decorative paintings restored.
The MHCRJ has held Exhibitions, Researches, and an active educational and cultural programming until it was closed for new restoration works which started in 2010.
Currently, the museum has a collection of about 24,000 pieces, among which the following collections catalog:
Photographic catalog: 6,500 images showing various aspects, periods, and personalities, with special highlight to the Augusto Malta's pictures.
Marc Ferrez: known for his talent of recording Rio de Janeiro's landscapes, his innovative feature made him the precursor of different photography techniques. Learn more about the collection
Watercolors: Thomas Ender and Adalberto da Prussia's work depicting Rio de Janeiro of the early nineteenth century.
Engravings and lithographs: City images in the colonial and imperial periods, with emphasis on those by Maria Graham, Eugène Cicéri, Friedrich Hagedorn, Debret, and Rugendas.
Banners of the nineteenth century: this has as highlight the Senate Chamber Banner, used in the Royal Family's reception of 1808. Learn more about the collection of banners
Guilherme Guinle's Collection: consisting of decorative art objects that belonged to the last owner of the property. It was acquired by the Municipality of the Federal District along with the property now occupied by the MHCRJ, as stated in the Sale Deed of Sept. 9, 1939.